En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - February 14, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Native plants for limestone ledge with thin soil in Austin, TX
Answered by: Nan Hampton


My back yard is essentially a limestone ledge with less than an inch of soil on the top in full sun. What native plants can live in this environment? Since I can't really dig a hole, maybe I should start with wildflower seeds.


Here are some candidate native plants that should do well in thin, calcareous soils:

Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)
Texas Sedge (Carex texensis)
Purple three-awn (Aristida purpurea)

Herbaceous Perennials
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida)
Mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea)
Four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa)
Hill Country Penstemon (Penstemon triflorus)

Herbaceous Annuals
Greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium)
Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)
Yellow Stonecrop (Sedum nuttallianum)

Perennial Shrubs/Shrublike
Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
Rose mallow (Pavonia lasiopetala)
Texas Lantana (Lantana urticoides)
Agarita (Mahonia trifoliata)

Although your soil is thin, you might find some places deep enough to plant some of the shrubs. They are all especially well-suited to your conditions. Regarding the herbaceous annuals, they should readily reseed themselves if the mature seed heads are left on the plants to disperse.

Many of these plants can be bought as seeds from Native American Seed in Junction, Texas. You can also check our National Suppliers Directory for other nurseries and seed companies that specialize in native plants in your area. Additionally, the majority of these plants will be for sale at our Spring Plant Sale for 2007 beginning Friday, April 13 (1 to 7PM) with a preview sale for Wildflower Center members only. The sale for the general public will be held Saturday and Sunday (9AM-5PM), April 14 and 15. Please check the Wildflower Center web page closer to the weekend of the sale for a list of the plants available and for more information about the sale.


More Wildflowers Questions

How long do bluebonnets last?
April 21, 2009 - How long do bluebonnets last? When should I no longer expect to see the beautiful state flower along the side of the road? I want to know how long I have to take memorable pictures of my children. Tha...
view the full question and answer

Legal to mow wildflowers in HOA in Royse City, TX
April 21, 2012 - We live out in the country in Rockwall County, Texas. Is it legal to mow the wildflowers on our 2 acre lots? The HOA documents we committed to require the homesites to be maintained, but there is di...
view the full question and answer

Preparation of site for wildflowers in Missouri
December 04, 2008 - I have 1/2 lb of wildflower seed I would like to plant in the next couple days. the directions say to rid site of all weeds, do you have a suggestion of how to rid my site of thistle? Sow and canadian...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of survival of Genus Castilleja in Wisconsin
April 04, 2005 - In traveling through Texas last week we noticed many many little orange flowers which are absolutely fascinating. I found a picture of that flower in your website for Wildflower Days 2005 in the to...
view the full question and answer

Caterpillars on Milkweed in MA
January 23, 2016 - I have found every year a black/red caterpillars on my milkweed. They eat everything! I have never been able to find out what they are or how to get rid of them.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center